Later this month U.S. President Barack Obama and President of Russia Vladimir Putin will meet at the chess board for a diplomatic match at the highest level. The chess meeting between the two world leaders is intended to “resolve the current stalemate situation” between the two countries, which has been described as “a 21st-century cold war fight of strategic nature” by insiders of the White House.
In a joint statement on Tuesday Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have announced a meeting later this month at a location yet to be determined. No further details were revealed, except that the two Presidents “will play a game of chess.”
“The outcome of the game will have a direct affect on the future strategy of the United States towards global security in general and our relationship with Russia in particular,” said Mr Obama. “The stakes are very high.” “The game will be of utmost importance for the new world order,” said Mr Putin.
The chess match, a revolutionary new move in the world of diplomacy, may come as a surprise after Mr Obama's statement last month at a news conference in Toluca, Mexico: “Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard.”
However, a recent report by the BBC described the Crimea conflict as a “geo-political chess game” between East and West. And now the U.S. President has changed his mind: “The game of chess goes beyond any possible conflict between our nations. We will fight a battle that is not a competition between the United States and Russia. This is an expression of hopes and aspirations of people in every country to solve all conflicts between us within the boundaries of the 64 squares.”
Mr Obama (52) says he remembers vividly when he played his first chess game. “I had just turned 11 when Bobby Fischer became World Champion. I cheered for him, Hawaii cheered for him, like the whole country cheered for him.”
In a recent poll, American citizens expressed an overwhelming concern for how their President spends his time. Marcus Johnson in Atlanta comments: “Between watching House of Cards (which Obama Tweets about here), filling out his NCAA Bracket... and now chess, when does our Commander in Chief ever actually get any work done?”
However, he's not the only one recently criticized for wasting time on the NCAA Basketball Tournament known as “March Madness”. Our own Vice President of Content and Professional Relations has come under serious heat from CEO Erik for blogging and recording a 45 minute video, along with several other well known chess masters, instead of working on more relevant projects. According to an inside source Rensch's days with the company may be numbered if he pulls another stunt like that.
Mr Putin (61) was brought up with chess culture from a young age. “As a kid I followed chess wherever I could and memorized Botvinnik's games in my head during judo class. Unfortunately I could not attend the third Kasparov-Karpov match in my home town Leningrad, because I was living in Dresden at the time. But I cut out every game from the newspaper.”
Despite engaging in similar “time wasting” activities (pictured below) all indications from recent Russian polls show overwhelming support for how Mr. Putin spends his time. Most recent polls suggest an astounding 102% approval rating from Russian citizens for the President's commitment to the chess match against Obama.
Speculations have started about possible “seconds” - grandmasters who will act as coaches for Mr Obama and Mr Putin. Both sides are said to be working secretly with a team of super grandmasters, which is not surprising taking into a account what's at stake.
“Hikaru Nakamura is likely to be involved in the U.S. President's team,” said an expert of the game. “A three-time U.S. Champion, Nakamura has recently stated that he wants to focus on matches of the highest level.”
Mr Putin is likely to be assisted by ex-World Champion Anatoly Karpov. The 62-year-old Russian grandmaster has been a member of the Russian parliament since September 2011. Besides, he has recently been spotted preparing himself for a new cold war:
Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, who fought many battles with Mr Karpov and who is a longtime nemesis of Mr Putin, has offered his help to the U.S. President. “As I have said for years, it is a waste of time to attempt to discern deep strategy in Mr. Putin’s actions,” wrote Mr Kasparov in a column in the Wall Street Journal recently. “He's a decent calculator and likes to attack, but what he lacks is positional understanding.”
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the President of the World Chess Federation, declined an invitation to attend the historic chess match. He has a business meeting scheduled with the President of the Chess Federation in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. “We will launch a chess in schools program soon,” said Mr Ilyumzhinov. “But I wish Mr Putin, who is a personal friend of mine, lots of success. Gens Una Sumus.”
Magnus Carlsen, the reigning World Chess Champion, was not available for a comment. His manager Espen Agdestein told Chess.com: “We advise Mr Obama to download and install the Play Magnus app. Say again? He is not allowed to have a smartphone? He can use his wife's! But wait... Mr Putin can download the same app of course. I'll get back to you. We'll respond later this week with a video on Youtube.”
Meanwhile, chess fans around the world have started discussing possible strategies for the two Presidents. At a forum of Chess.com two crucial questions are currently debated: “1) How should you play against an aggressive (attacking) player? 2) Is it better to fight aggression with aggression?”
Whatever the outcome, the chess match between the two world leaders will be a historic event. The match will be broadcast live on Chess.com by our regular hosts GM Ben Finegold and IM Danny Rensch. Stay tuned!